Keeping family food costs at a reasonable level can be a challenge, particularly for mums and dads on the go, without proper time for budgeting. Supermarket shops, meals out, and even treats at the café are all part of your total tally, so it’s relatively easy to lose track of what you devote to food costs each month. Unfortunately, carrying on without a grip on spending can push your food totals beyond what you can actually afford. In fact, turning a blind eye to food costs can actually interfere with other aspects of your budget, leaving you short in other, unrelated, spending areas.
If unhealthy cash flow patterns have emerged within your budget, turning your food spend into a personal finance liability; it may be time to evaluate your habits and work out an affordable spending plan. Sticking to a controlled, thought-out food budget can help you ease spending pressure and find “extra” money in your household pot. For immediate relief, follow a few simple steps and start cutting food costs today.
Assess Your Monthly Spend
Identifying an accurate spending baseline is the first step to healthier food finance. How much do you spend at the supermarket each month? Are you driving costs higher with too many meals out? Is takeaway your worst food habit? Compiling a comprehensive record of food spending totals provides answers to these and other questions about your household habits, feeding your family.
Tracking spending helps manage costs of all sorts, but the process is of particular importance relative to family food costs. Unlike other household bills, such as fixed mortgage payments and monthly service contracts, food spending varies from month to month. As a result, it can be difficult pinpointing precise patterns for budgeting purposes. The proof is in the pudding; monitoring monthly costs is the only way to know for sure, how much of your paycheck is eaten up, buying food.
For reliable results down the line, it’s important to create an honest spending log, recording all your food spending. Plan to track spending for a full month, or even two, for increased accuracy. Note everything you spend during this period, including:
- Weekly grocery shop
- Work lunches
- Impulse buys
- Dinners out
Budgeting apps are useful, but you can also note spending the old-fashioned way, using a ledger or column notepad. You can even design your own budget template, if it will help you stay on the mark, tracking your food spend. Keep hold of receipts, during the data gathering phase, and use bank records to retrace your spending, if necessary.
Organise Food Spending Data
If you’re a meticulous record keeper, this step is a breeze. The idea is to slice up your overall food spending into categories you can use to refine your budget. As you divide the totals into groups, you may be surprised to see definite patterns in the way money flows through your hands. Lunches away from home or another category may immediately throw up a red flag, highlighting wasteful food spending habits. After accounting for all the data, you can begin establishing spending limits in each category, setting savings in motion.
Set Goals and Start Planning
Food budgeting shouldn’t keep you hungry or take away your enjoyment of tasty, healthful meals. The exercise is instead designed to provide knowledge you can use to spend within your means and plan for future food needs. When your household budget falters, short-term loans can carry you between paychecks. And staying on top of food costs stretches your financial resources, helping keep cash flow crises to a minimum. Planning meals and setting incremental goals to reduce your food spend are two ways to generate positive results.
Your household food spend includes not only your weekly grocery shop, but also money spent in restaurants, cafes, and pubs. Establishing a food budget helps you monitor these costs and provides spending guidelines that keep your family fed, without wasting cash.